Akpos Eyafe: The Girl Behind The Mask

Article written by Christina Ojo. Poster created by Ernesto Montejano. 

The air was tense and within her buzzed a sense of determination.

As she marched through the streets alongside the sea of protesters, she caught the eye of a photographer. At that moment, the photographer sensed from her a power that came from her beauty and grace. That strength would soon be seen by the rest of the world.

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, thousands of protesters–Black men, women, children, and allies alike – flooded the streets of Minneapolis. Among them was a young Nigerian woman, Akpos Eyafe, attending her first protest.

As she walked, her eyes taking in everything she was experiencing, a photographer approached her to compliment her hair, then asked if they could take a picture.

“I had just done my hair the day before. I did box braids on myself, so I was really happy that someone had noticed. I didn’t think anything was going to come from it.”

By the next day, the photographer had uploaded the picture to Instagram. It didn’t take long for the photo to make its way to an artist, Ernesto Yerena Montejano, in Los Angeles.

Moved by the force behind her eyes, her hidden smile, and beautiful box braids, Ernesto saw an opportunity to create art using Akpos’ photo. Upon seeing the final art form, she was blown away.
“I had never seen myself in that light before.”

However, in that same moment, the importance of the poster had not fully hit Akpos.

At least, not until it was seen projected on the Oakland City Police Department building during another protest.

The impact the poster had made finally dawned upon Akpos, and she was truly amazed by her own power.

As the poster became a well-known image within the Black Lives Matter movement, Akpos had found herself becoming even more aware of the world around her.

It can be easy to forget those who may not look exactly like you.

Knowing that the poster would be viewed by everybody, Akpos came to understand that the art would represent all identities that fell under the Black Lives Matter statement. And the hands that were accompanied in displaying the power in her heart, had helped Akpos see the allies by her side.

Yet still, there is a long way to go on the road ahead.

After the impact that was felt by the poster, Akpos realized that all must play their role.

“Now is now. Are you going to be here for it?”

Urging us to take action, Akpos reminds us that all must be present in the moment.

“Do your part in making history, just do your part no matter what it may be.”

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